The Deeper Journey, the Spirituality of Discovering Your True Self by M. Robert Mulholland, Jr.

The Deeper Journey is published by the formatio wing of InterVarsity Press.  Formatio books are dedicated to the promotion of classical Christian mysticism and this particular book serves formatio’s goals well.  Mulholland begins with the standard opening often found in mystical and emergent literature—that is, convincing his readers that there has to be more to their Christian life than they are presently experiencing.  Once the reader is on board he is shown why what he has known previously is completely off base and then he is enlightened concerning the new and improved methodology—in this case classical Roman Catholic and Quaker mysticism.  Even when Mulholland teaches biblical principles he consistently illustrates his points with the best known Roman Catholic and Quaker mystics:  Thomas Merton (pp. 20, 91, 114, 115, 135, 144), Thomas Kelly (pp. 97, 149, 150), Henri Nouwen (pp. 102-103, 119), Francis of Assisi (p. 18), John of the...

Sacred Rhythms by Ruth Haley Barton

Sacred Rhythms by Ruth Haley Barton, Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2006; pp. 191, hardback, $17.00 Sacred Rhythms is a typical book published by the Formatio wing of InterVarsity Press.  Formatio books are dedicated to promotion of ancient mystical practices, largely from the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and Quaker traditions, under the banner of “spiritual formation.”  Barton’s book could serve as a primer to this mystical world which was largely unknown to most evangelicals until the publication of Richard Foster’s Celebration of Disciplines in the mid-1970s. The opening quote by Elizabeth Dreyer maps out the direction for the rest of the book:  One can begin one’s (spiritual) quest by attending to the desires of the heart, both personal and communal.  The Spirit is revealed in our genuine hopes for ourselves and for the world.  How brightly burns the flame of desire for a love affair with God, other people, the...

Devotional Classics by Richard Foster and James Bryan Smith

In his effort to promote classical Christian mysticism, what he calls spiritual renewal, Richard Foster has written many books, spoken throughout the world and founded the organization RENOVARÉ.  One of his literary efforts is to introduce the writings of the mystic in a collage such as the earlier Spiritual Classics and this volume Devotional Classics.  Devotional Classics provides fifty-two selections from fifty-two authors representing five traditions: contemplative, holiness, charismatic, social justice and evangelical.  Many of the selections come from well-known Roman Catholic mystics such as Bernard of Clairvaux, Thomas Merton, Henri Nouwen, Francis of Assisi, Ignatius of Loyola, Teresa of Ávila and John of the Cross.  There also are at least seven Quakers including  Thomas Kelly, George Fox, Isaac Penington, John Woolman and Hannah Whitall Smith.  The reader unfamiliar with the wider body of works from these individuals will not be able to glean from most of these devotional...

Good News for Anxious Christians, 10 Practical Things You Don’t Have to Do by Phillip Cary

Cary, a philosophy professor at Eastern University, challenges what he calls “the new evangelical theology” which is “a set of supposedly practical ideas about transforming your life that gets in the way of believing the gospel” (p. x).  The techniques that he covers “all have the characteristic that they turn you away from external things like the word of God, Christ in the flesh, and the life of the church, in order to seek God in your heart, your life, your experience.  Underneath a lot of talk about being personal with God, it’s a spirituality that actually leaves you alone with yourself” (p. xi). With this premise in mind Cary goes on to attack ten “sacred cows” of the new evangelicalism.  As a college professor he constantly sees these faulty ways of Christian living and thinking in his students.  These young people have grown up in an evangelical environment...

Grace Is for Sinners by Serena Woods

Grace Is for Sinners tells the story of Serena Woods.  Woods’ childhood was nothing short of horrific which led to many of her tragic choices.  But by God’s grace she came to Christ as a young woman and according to her testimony was growing rapidly in the Lord.  She married, had an aspiring career as an actress and a sweet life.  Then in three weeks she had an affair with her best friend’s husband, became pregnant and her world fell apart.  But this book is not so much about her failures as about her perceived failure of Christian friends toward her during this period in her life.  The book is poorly written with a huge number of broken sentences, wrong punctuation and incomplete thoughts which are all very distracting.  But I see at least two positives.  First, Woods seems sincere in her efforts to convince God’s people to extend...

Slave by John MacArthur

For various reasons English translations of the Bible, going back to both the King James Version and the Geneva Bible that predated it, have mistranslated the Greek word doulos.  Doulos means slave, yet virtually all English translations substitute “servant” even though there are at least six Greek words for servant and doulos is not one of them (pp. 15-16).  The net result of this mistranslation is a misunderstanding of the Christian’s status before the Lord.  Servants are hired, can quit, have certain rights and can refuse to obey.  Slaves are owned, have no rights and quit or disobey only at their own peril.  MacArthur has done us a great favor by reintroducing this truth to the people of God.  If we do not know our spiritual identity we will inevitably be confused in our Christian walk.  Unfortunately most of us have a misconception of what slavery meant when the...

Relationships, A Mess Worth Making by Tim Lane and Paul Tripp

Relationships is vintage Paul Tripp.  He (along with co-author Tim Lane) takes the same principles that he most clearly articulated in his signature work Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands and applies them more specifically in each of his other books.  Whether the topic is marriage, midlife, parenting or relationships, the problems and solutions are the same.  The aim of the book is stated in the first chapter: This book will help you look through the shattered glass of our sin to see the glory of a Redeemer who is ever-present, always at work to rescue and change us (p. 2). Lane and Tripp attempt to accomplish their goal through a number of means.  First, they pull the rug out from under our cherished misconceptions.  For example, “The fatal flaw of human wisdom is that you can change your relationships without needing to change yourself” (p. 7).  They remind us...

Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream by David Platt

Radical has been a New York Times bestseller and is reminiscent of Francis Chan’s Crazy Love in its call for radical lifestyle changes, especially in material ways, and in spreading a two-tiered gospel of reconciliation with God and caring for the poor.  I appreciated Radical more because it is less condemnatory, legalistic and guilt-driven.  In addition the true gospel is better explained and emphasized (pp. 30-36; 143-160).  In fact Platt clearly remarks, “People’s greatest need in the world is Christ.  To meet people’s temporary needs apart from serving their eternal spiritual need misses the point of holistic biblical giving” (p. 195). I believe the author is on target to call God’s people to examine their materialism and take appropriate biblical steps to prioritize their finances to maximize the spreading of the gospel (pp. 127-128, 194-196).  Platt is also correct that Jesus’ “megastrategy” was to make disciples (pp. 90-106); a...

The Enemy Within by Kris Lundgaard

Out of his own struggle with sin Lundgaard turned to the great Puritan John Owen for help.  He devoured Owen’s books Indwelling Sin and The Mortification of Sin with apparently great personal benefit.   But realizing that few would wade through these tomes Lundgaard decided to “kidnap” Owen (p. 14) and simplify his teaching through use of modern language and examples.  I think he went a little overboard in this regard but overall he succeeds in his purpose. The Enemy Within describes well the struggle that every believer has with sin.  Suitable warnings of sin’s deception are given and many means of dealing with sin are identified.  I don’t believe this little volume offered anything new but it serves as a good overview of biblical teaching, even though  I was a bit disturbed by several Old Testament references taken out of context.  Most of these texts were addressed to Israel...

The Pursuit of Holiness by Jerry Bridges

Although Bridges wrote The Pursuit of Holiness in 1978 it remains a helpful and pertinent tool in the Christian’s progress toward godliness.  It offers profound yet simple and practical discernment into how the child of God is to grow in Christ-likeness. “To be holy is to be morally blameless,” Bridges tells us.  “It is to be separated from sin and, therefore, consecrated to God” (p. 19).  Few would argue with this definition; the problem is in the “How?”  To this question many opinions and theological systems have been offered throughout the ages.  Bridges presents a solid and biblical balance between “just do it” and “let go and let God” (pp. 21, 53-54, 82-85).  Since much errant teaching has been promoted at these two extremes, I found Bridges’ explanations to be one of the most helpful parts of his book. Another valuable balance is struck in relationship to holiness and...